Today’s farms and agricultural operations work far differently compared to those a few decades ago, mainly due to technological advancements.
But if you think about it more deeply, agriculture remains less digitized compared to other fields. Although advancements have been made, they’re mostly focused on mechanical (e.g., powerful equipment) and genetics (e.g., improved seeds and fertilizers). The agriculture industry still has a long way to go in terms of digitalization.
Many experts believe that the agricultural sector must adopt a digital transformation not only to survive in this fast-paced world but also to thrive. And most importantly, agriculture must turn to innovation to meet the increasing demand for food, in line with the ballooning global population growth. By 2050, the world’s population is expected to rise by 2.2 billion, which means that farmers will have to produce around 70% more food than what is produced today.
Thankfully, more recent technological advancements offer a lot of hope. Right now, the agriculture industry is taking baby steps toward the digitized future. Modern farmers have begun to adopt tools and measures such as advanced machines, devices, sensors, precision agriculture, robotic systems, automation, and artificial intelligence.
An increasing number of agricultural companies are investing in technological research and development to make sure that they stay ahead of the competition. These emerging technological advancements offer farming operations to be more efficient, safe, profitable, and environmentally friendly.
Precision agriculture refers to an agricultural resource management approach that gathers, processes, and assesses data and offers insights to help farmers how to improve soil quality and crop yields.
Management decision also relies on precision agriculture data points to improve farms and crop yields and quality across the following key areas:
- Efficient use of resources
Precision agriculture utilizes sizable data to assist in management decisions, helping farmers to control crop yield factors such as soil condition, moisture level, and microclimates to boost output. Precision agriculture usually relies on drones, sensing systems, robotics, and automation to boost crop health and optimize the use of agricultural resources, leading to better productivity.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines and computer systems. AI systems can learn and apply data and processes, recognize objects, understand and comprehend language, and solve problems to perform humanlike functions successfully.
In farming and agriculture, AI has the potential to increase revenues, optimize resource efficiencies, and improve sustainability.
AI has several capabilities. According to a report from Forbes, AI aids farmers in analyzing various real-time and future data to make informed decisions, including weather forecasts, soil conditions, and water usage. Moreover, AI helps farmers optimize their planning to generate improved harvest by determining crop choice and utilization of resources. In addition, AI helps to harvest high-volume crops at a faster rate than humans, significantly reducing labor and yielding better and more accurate results.
In agricultural technology, the term “pervasive automation” refers to any system that reduces the operator’s workload. Examples of pervasive automation include autonomous vehicles controlled remotely through terminals or by robotics, hyper-navigation systems, and other agricultural equipment that can interact and even operate in a plug-and-play manner. Most of the equipment works that way because they already have the ISOBUS standard.
Think vertical – even in farming! Vertical farming has often been a subject of science fiction or perhaps even earlier. But now, it has come into reality, and urban properties have taken up this system of farming to make up for the lack of farming space.
Vertical farming is exactly what it sounds like – farming on vertical surfaces instead of traditional horizontal farming. It consists of farming on stacked layers in an enclosed and controlled environment. By this method, farmers can produce as much food on the same amount of land (or even less). Quite often, vertical farming doesn’t require soil – it's either aeroponic or hydroponic.
- Aeroponic – It is growing plants in the air. A crop plant’s roots are suspended in the air, with emitters periodically spraying them with water and nutrients.
- Hydroponic – It is growing plants in water and nutrient solutions.
Drones are not just for taking photos and videos! These hovering vehicles are also used for monitoring purposes. In agriculture, they’re used to help farmers to survey vast areas and collect data to create crucial insights about their farmlands from practically anywhere.
Drones are efficient farming tools as they provide more frequent, consistent, and cost-effective remote monitoring of crops and livestock. They’re used to analyze field conditions and look for potential problems and help in optimizing field management. Drones can also be deployed to apply appropriate interventions such as fertilizers, pesticides, and nutrients when necessary.
Sometimes called minichromosome technology, minichromosomal technology is one of the exciting developments in agrotechnology. A minichromosome is a small structure within cells that hold very little genetic material but can store an ample amount of information. By using minichromosomes, agricultural geneticists are able to add dozens (and maybe even hundreds) of new traits into the host plant.
These traits can be quite complex, such as tolerance or resistance to drought and nitrogen use. But the most curious thing about minichromosomal technology is that it does not alter a plant’s original chromosomes in any way, leading to faster regulatory approval and acceptance from both farmers and consumers.
Autonomous farm machinery
The persistent labor shortage across farms in the United States calls for autonomous solutions. One of them is autonomous farm machinery. Self-operating robots and equipment based on GPS and imagery analysis can perform everyday tasks in a precise manner.
Autonomous farm machinery is aimed at reducing labor, boosting crop yields, and optimizing resources. By using computerized sensors and GPS controls, farmers can operate equipment in their fields without immediate human intervention. More importantly, autonomous farm vehicles are more efficient at working in fields than the ones controlled by human farmers.
These are some examples of emerging technological advancements in agriculture. At the end of the day, technology can inform farmers of the potential threats (such as pests and inclement weather) that can harm their crops, monitor soil, produce healthy and bountiful crops, and develop a wide range of farming-related tasks. These emerging technologies will significantly help and support the agriculture industry in overcoming challenges.